The Day The H-Bomb Hit Philadelphia
- A Story By: Mike Schwartz - a Philadelphia Journalist
- The Inquirer Magazine.
- Aug 10, 1982
Reprinted from: "The Inquirer Magazine. January 10, 1982
Background: This is a story of what might happen if a one mega-ton hydrogen
bomb were dropped on Philadelphia. It is a minute-by-minute account based on facts
know in 1982.
The date of the incident: October 8, 1984.
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. - J. Robert Oppenheimer
Suspended on a pillar of flame and smoke, an olive-drab Soviet SS-13 intercontinental ballistic missile rises hesitantly - cobra-like -- past the lip of its reinforced-concrete silo sunk 65 feet under a cow pasture near Plesetsk, about 100 miles south of the White Sea.
Then the multi-stage rocket -- code-named SAVAGE -- thunders skyward, accelerating so rapidly that in less than a minute it is just a fiery speck high in the blue, a billowy exhaust trail marking its climb over the Arctic Circle.
SAVAGE carries a 1-megaton thermonuclear warhead, a hydrogen bomb packing the destruct energy of 1 million tons of TNT, or about 80 times the punch of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
It's only medium-sized in the spectrum of nuclear weaponry the Kremlin has just unleashed in a sneak attack on the United States.
Twenty-eight minutes later, shorn of its rocket boosters and more than 5,000 miles from its hidden launchpad in northern Russia, SAVAGE dips out of a semi-orbital trajectory to plummet like an artillery shell toward the Delaware Valley.
It is 10:25 a.m. Philadelphia time when the Soviet warhead, hurtling faster than its own sound, breaks through a cloud bank a mere quarter-mile off its target -- William Penn's statue atop City Hall. Thousands of horror struck onlookers actually see the weapon's final meteoric plunge.....
The date: Monday, October 8, 2024
This story chronicles the first day of Armageddon --- not the Doomsday of biblical prophecy, but something close enough; total nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
It isn't science fiction. Nuclear explosions have been too well studied -- first after the actual bombings of living Japanese cities, then in scores of "peaceful" tests over the next three decades -- to leave the slightest doubt about their capacity for mayhem.
It isn't even especially unlikely. Many experts fear that nuclear confrontation may be close at hand, warned Gene R. LaRocque, a retired rear admiral who is director of the Center for Defense Information in Washington: "We have managed to avoid nuclear war in the first 35 years of the Nuclear Age, but we cannot count on our luck holding out indefinitley...." In Nuclear Weapons and World Politics --- Alternatives for the Future, David C. Gompert, director of the State Departments's Office of International Security Policy, wrote that "...as long as untold destructive power is poised within minutes of detonation, we cannot rely solely on a presumption of rational calculation and behavior."
Since 1947 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has had a clock on its cover indicating the imminence of nuclear war, with midnight symbolizing Doomsday. In 1980 the clock read 11:53 p.m.;
a year later the hands stood at just four minutes to midnight.
Lending credibility to such pessimism is the fact that, so far as is known, man has never developed a deadly weapon he didn't eventually use. Indeed, today all the requisite weaponry and manpower stand ready to utterly destroy civilization as we know it -- not in a matter of months or weeks , but in hours -- in an act of madness prompted by fear, miscalculation, computer error, or plain cold-blooded ambition.
By 1981, the United States and the Soviet Union had stockpiled between them about 50,000 tactical and strategic nuclear weapons -- nearly the total world supply -- 15,000 of which far exceeded the power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki devices (the United States had about 9,000 hydrogen bombs, the Soviet Union 6,000). The aggregate explosive firepower was staggering -- equivalent to more three tons of TNT for every person on earth.
All that held this bristling overkill in check was a military doctrine called, Assured Destruction, the ability of one side to inflict "unacceptable" damage on the other even if attacked first. According to MAD's symmetrical doomsday logic, since it would be literally suicidal for either adversary to start World War III, neither would.
To help stabilize MAD's balance of terror,the United States and the Soviet Union signed two Strategic Arms Limitations Treaties during the 1970s.
The 1972 SALT I accord, for example, curtailed the use of anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs), a deliberate breast-baring gesture intended to leave the cities of both nations mutually vulnerable to annihilation.
Then came SALT II. The 1974 agreement, signed but never ratified, granted both sides roughly equivalent numbers of strategic delivery systems -- long-range bombers, submarines and land-based ICMBs -- at limits permitting so many warheads that Mutual Assured Destruction would remain beyond doubt.
For instance, of nearly 2,400 delivery systems allowed, half could be fitted with "multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles" (MIRVs), clusters of 3 to 10 warheads designed to be lobbed down from space one by one onto separate targets.
Soon after its introduction by the United States in 1970, MIRV technology proved to be the most dangerously proliferative factor in the nuclear arms race; it not only generated enough cumulative firepower to wipe out each country many times over, but gave a tempting advantage to whoever attacked first.
In the view of many military people, SALT II's emphasis on equilibrium worked as much against arms control as for it by legitimizing a Soviet crash program to achieve [parity with the United States. By 1981, U.S. intelligence reported that their worst fears had been confirmed. The Soviets at last had achieved "break-out" from MAD -- enough missiles of requisite destructivness and accuracy to knock out 90 percent of U.S. land based ICBMs in a pre-emptive silo "killing" attack. Moreover, it was feared that improved Soviet air defenses could now shoot down most of the Strategic Air Command's 350 aging B-52 bombers before they reached their targets. Only the third leg of America's strategic triad -- its fleet of 39 ballistic missile-carrying submarines -- remained relatively invulnerable to attack.
To overcome the Soviet edge, the Reagan administration hastened to implement the controversial mobile MX missile and supersonic B-1 bomber programs, as well as to arm SAC's lumbering B-52 force with air-launched 1,500-mile cruise missiles, three components of a sweeping five-year $1.5 trillion military revitalization, the biggest in peacetime American history.
Despite its weakness, the SALT process at least had provided a forum for communication; breakdown of the talks added a harrowing new instability to the nuclear stand-off. With neither arms-control ground rules not ongoing negotiations, the superpowers soon careened onto an irreversible collision course.
Summer 1984 (0)
Kremlin warlords now face a last "window" of opportunity. Realizing that they must take decisive action before the accelerating U.S. buildup restores strategic parity, they gamble on limited nuclear war, a surgical first assault against mainly military targets, as opposed to cities.
Primary targets include 1,052 Minuteman and Titan ICBM silos concentrated in the Dakotas and Great Planes states; long-range bomber and nuclear submarine bases; and as many strategic aircraft carriers and missile submarines at sea as can be pinpointed. Also on the list are troop staging areas, war-related industries (outside major cities), early warning satellites and radar stations, as well as communications and command centers such as North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) buried deep inside a Colorado mountain.
Soviet strategists calculate that a quarter of their MIRVed 1,398-missile Strategic Rocket Force, supported by some missile-carrying subs, can cripple U.S. retaliatory capacity in one master-fully executed stroke, without inflicting more than 4 to 5 million civilian casualties. That would leave enough reserve weaponry aimed at American industries and cities to coerce a swift surrender. Surely, they reason, no rational U.S. president will strike back with a few surviving missiles and bombers knowing that the gesture would invite mass slaughter of his people.
And if the U.S. does retaliate? Soviet leaders are prepared to take heavy losses. After all, their country had absorbed 20 million dead during World War II and still managed to emerge victorious and prosper. Analysts in Moscow stoically predict a maximum of 10 million Soviet deaths ( a mere 4 percent of the population) from an all-out nuclear exchange, versus at least 10 times that number on the U.S. side. If those odds proved valid; Russia could survive -- win, if you will -- a holocaust that would virtually obliterate American society.
Summer 1984 cont'd (1)
Such unflinching optimism stems from the readiness of an ambitious civil defense system, which includes intensive public education and drill, blast/fallout shelter space for most urban residents (with long-term protection for a million Communist Party Members), dispersal of factory sites, and comprehensive city evacuation plans. Decades under development and budgeted at $4 billion annually, Soviet civil defense clearly is intended as much as a strategic weapon as an emergency life saver.
By contrast, U.S. civil defense is a sham. Except for a few thousand bunkered-down, well-hardened retreatists dismissed by the public as fringe-group paranoids, Americans have no operable nuclear attack protection of any kind.
Nowhere is the situation more desperate than in Philadelphia. Of $113 million budgeted for national civil defense in 1981, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania received $2.2 million, Philadelphia's share -- paltry $176,000 matched by city funds -- had to cover all civil preparedness services for a population of 1.8 million.
"Civil defense here is inadequate," reported Joseph R. Rizzo, Philadelphia's fire commissioner and director of the cities Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), in September 1981. "I'm the first to admit that the city is unprepared for a nuclear attack. How can we install a decent [civil defense] program when we can't even afford to run our school and transit systems?"
Rizzo's firefighters and six-member OEP staff never less had identified several thousand buildings that offer some protection. About 2,500 were designated public fallout shelters. Situated in churches, office towers, libraries, schools -- even in the catacombs under 30th Street Station -- most dated back to the early days of the Cold War. Most were not blast-resistant,
Summer 1984 cont'd (2)
having been selected primarily for their resistance to radioactive fallout. Each had a minimum protection factor (PF) of 40, meaning that people inside the shelter would receive 1/40th of the radiation present outside.
None of the shelters were supplied with food, water, first aid and sanitation kits, or fallout meters needed to measure radiation levels (the delicate monitoring instruments, safeguarded in a central storage area, were to be distributed in an emergency).
"We gradually destocked the shelters from 1975 on," said Michael Nucci, Philadelphia's emergency preparedness coordinator. "After 10 years on the shelves, the foodstuffs turned rancid and the water containers sprang leaks. Roaches and vandalism also took their toll. The city tried to replenish lost or damaged stocks, but had to stop soon after Washington phased out the community shelter program in the late 1960s."
Since 1972, when civil defense responsibility was transferred for cost/efficiency reasons from a separate municipal agency to the Fire Department, the financially strapped OEP had gotten along by making all available resources serve double duty. Commissioner Rizzo's firefighters, for example, surveyed public shelters in conjunction with annual property inspections, and maintained 115 World War II-vintage air raid sirens across the city.
Rizzo and his staff also coordinated a two-story, 15,000-square-foot Emergency Operating Center beneath Fire DEpartment Headquarters at Third and Spring Garden Streets. Used daily as office space and as a command post for ordinary emergencies, the subterranean complex in war was to become Philadelphia's alternate seat of government and informational hub, connected by remote hook-up to radio station WIP, the cities primary link in an area-wide.
Summer 1984 cont'd (3)
Emergency Broadcast System. Equipped with sophisticated radio and telecommunications gear; independent power, water, and ventilation systems; dormitories, and space for bulk food storage, it was designed to support 300 people in shirt-sleeve comfort for up to 90 days. Though it was not constructed to survive a direct nuclear hit, the facilities radiation PF exceeded 1,000.
Notwithstanding the elaborate command bunker, Rizzo entertained no illusions of nuclear invincibility. Like urban OEP directors nationwide, his emphasis was on Crisis Relocation Planning (CRP), a federal scheme calling for mass evacuation of urban residents to rural "host" communities where they would be temporarily fed and sheltered. For Philadelphians, the host communities were in Chester, Berks and Lebanon Counties.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversaw all natural disaster and civil defense planning, viewed CRP as a "credible, moderate-cost alternative" to a system of in place blast shelters similar to ones in the Soviet Union, Switzerland and Sweden. Such shelters theoretically could save 90 percent of the U.S. population in the event of a surprise attack, but they would cost $70 billion.
Proponents of CRP believed that high-risk cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia could be evacuated in three to four days at much less exspense through a herculean, exquisitely orchestrated marshaling of all public and private vehicles, including trains, planes, and boats. Upon arriving in host areas, refugees would be lodged in hotels, schools and other non-residential buildings, and be fed by a re-routing of existing commercial food distribution system. FEMA officials claimed that CRP would yield a survival rate of about 80 percent, or 180 million citizens.
Summer 1984 cont'd (4)
"We are convinced a nuclear attack is survivable," declared Vernon Adler, director of FEMA's Region III plans and preparedness division. "And nothing increases your chances of survival more than being at least 10 miles away from a nuclear blast." Crisis relocation, he said, was based on the assumption that full-scale nuclear aggression would be heralded by at least a few days of mounting world tension. "Then if the Russians began evacuating their cities," Adler said, "we could do the same."
Some civil defense experts, however, harbored grave doubts about CRP.
Samuel Ely, emergency preparedness director for Montgomery County, found it hard to swallow the notion of several days' advance warning. "No one," Ely stressed, "can make that guarantee... not even the government. If anything, a Soviet sneak attack seems more logical." He and others said they doubted that CRP could be implemented without chaos, and pointed out another flaw: Once urban areas were evacuated the Soviets could postpone their attack for weeks or months, effectively paralyzing the U.S. economy; upon resettlement of the cities, the enemy could then strike.
Ely believed that a combination of CRP and in-place blast shelters would make "a sensible and balanced approach," but that mass evacuation alone was "merely a half-hearted attempt to pacify the public, though probably better than nothing at all."
Workable or not, nationwide CRP planning was not scheduled for completion until 1991. At the time of the Soviet attack in 1984, it was less than 30 percent ready
It is a sparkling clear, Indian summer morning when Philadelphia area residents, many just arriving at work, hear the first fragmented news reports of ICBM strikes out West. Their immediate reaction: stunned disbelief...
08:45 a.m. Monday, Oct. 8, 2024
The initial Soviet bolt out of the blue, or BOOB attack in strategic parlance, occurs with mind-numbing speed. It consists of several hundred land-based ICBMs, some armed with 25-megaton monster bombs capable of leveling 500 square miles at one blow -- brute force compensating for near-misses on small, hardened targets like rocket silos. Other, more advanced missiles contain 8 to 10 MIRVed warheads apiece, each rated at one to two megatons and accurate to within 200 yards -- practically a bullseye at transoceanic range.
For all its suddenness, the Soviet salvo fails to achieve total surprise. Wary of a sneak attack, U.S. commanders promptly end a longstanding debate over whether or not they would "launch on warning" -- that is, dispatch America's strategic forces at the first spy satellite confirmation of rocket engines blasting from silos in central Russia.
They do, at President Reagan's direction, and the ferocity of the counter barrage also settles the question of the United States' determination to avoid all-out war by limiting its reprisal mainly to military targets in accordance with Jimmy Carter's Presidential Directive No. 59. Within 45 minutes the American counterattack -- even at reduced strength -- smashes every key military base, factory and city from Moscow to Vladivostok. As for the vaunted Soviet civil defense system, its invincibility proves a cruel myth under the pulverizing megatonnage of 8,000 H-bombs as that nation's urban structure collapses and 120 million Russians die.
Nonetheless, U.S. warheads aimed at the remaining Soviet missiles fall on mostly empty silos -- the Russians have already fired again, bent on exacting a similar toll. This time American cities are the targets -- including Philadelphia.
Even as the single-warhead SS-13 SAVAGE streaks 500 miles over North America amidst this third vengeful Doomsday barrage, thousands of strobe-like flashes and glowing pockmarks can be seen clearly from space, testimony to the devastation already wreaked across the continent below.
09:01 a.m. H-84 Minutes
It is a sparkling clear, Indian summer morning when Philadelphian-area residents, many just arriving at work, hear the first fragmented news reports of ICBM strikes out west. Their immediate reaction: stunned disbelief.
Nuclear War! Like most Americans, Philadelphians had given it about as much thought as the prospect of an asteroid ramming the earth, or else they had suppressed their anxiety about the Bomb until a chronic psychic numbing set in. One of the bizarre ironies of the Atomic Age had been all the emotional hand wringing over the Three Mile Island reactor accident in 1979, while the possibility of nuclear holocaust -- a vastly greater danger -- met with a euphoric lack of concern.
But now it is too late. As radio and TV accounts of unprecedented devastation in other parts of the nation grow gloomier and more hysterical by the minute, the initial shock and denial Philadelphia-area residents turn quickly to dread.
09:10 a.m. H-75 Minutes
A swirl of activity envelops civil defense headquarters beneath Spring Garden Street. One by one, key city officials -- the mayor, the managing director, the various municipal commissioners, along with representatives of other selected departments and agencies -- file into the Emergency Operations Center. Staffing banks of telephones and radio transmitters, they proceed to implement Philadelphia's Regional Emergency Medical Disaster Operations Plan (PREMDOP), only recently updated to include provisions for nuclear war.
The health commissioner initiates code PREMDOP Red, warning ambulance units, emergency rooms and allied health facilities throughout the five-county area to prepare to receive and treat mass casualties. Fire Commissioner Rizzo places all engine companies and rescue squads on citywide alert with instructions to equip for radiological defense. Police commissioner Morton Solomon orders each district to bolster security around vital relief resources, and to assign extra officers to anticipated crowd and traffic-control pressure points. Immediate military assistance is requested.
The moment the command bunker;s National Warning System terminal receives verification from NORAD that the United States is under all-out nuclear attack, Rizzo and his OEP staff activate the cities public-warning sirens and Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). Network news programs are interrupted just as the Attention Signal -- a steady five-minute blast of the sirens -- wafts across the city. All citizens are exhorted to tune in local stations for official instructions.
Then comes the Attack Warning Signal, a wavering tone lasting five minutes and repeated at regular intervals. The blood-chilling wail has one meaning only: that a nuclear strike on Philadelphia is imminent; protective action must be taken at once. Twenty percent of the public, however, hesitates at first. Still unaware of the crisis and undrilled in civil defense procedure, they lose precious seconds, merely confused by the din. But within 15 minutes about 4.5 million people -- nearly the entire metropolitan-area population -- hover trembling over radios and TV sets, few fully grasping what lies n store.
To stifle rumor and skepticism -- and to spur life-saving action -- the EBS announcement bluntly reports all the available facts. Warning that a nuclear attack may be less that an hour off, it advises residents to take the following initial steps:
•Shelter. Go immediately to the nearest public fallout shelter (designated by the standard black and yellow signs). The next-best shelter can be found in the basement of any large building or the deepest corner of a home cellar. First be sure to close any window curtains and blinds to prevent nuclear heat rays from igniting interior furnishings. Although effective radiation protection requires earthen, brick or concrete block walls 12 to 18 inches thick, and a ventilation pump to filter out poisoned air, last-minute shielding still can be improvised. Family members, for example, can pack dirt-filled drawers, trunks and boxes -- or any dense material -- around a sturdy table, then climb inside the space.
•Supplies.If possible, stock the shelter with enough canned and non-perishable food, water and other potable liquids to sustain each occupant fort at least 14 days. Other essential items include blankets, extra clothing, eating utensils, flashlights, transistor radios, spare batteries and digging tools, along with medicines, first aid and sanitation supplies, and a fire extinguisher. Fill bathtubs with water for use in emergency firefighting.
•Instant Cover.In the event of a sudden nuclear flash, follow the axiom "duck and cover." Any protection is better than none: a storm sewer, a car body, a stone wall, a piece of heavy furniture -- even a ditch. If no cover is available, lie on the ground in a curled-up position with hands and arms wrapped around the head. When the immediate danger has passed, move quickly to a fallout shelter.
Speaking on the EBS, the mayor urges area residents to maintain courage and calm, to cooperate fully with civil defense authorities, and not to use telephones since lines must be kept open for official calls. He advises them to keep off major roads, which will be needed for emergency vehicles. He admonishes people outside Philadelphia to stay away and those inside not to attempt flight. There simply isn't time.
09:15 a.m. H-70 Minutes
Helicoptered from the White House lawn to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, President Reagan scrambles aboard his National Emergency Airborne Command Post. The specially equipped Boeing 747 takes off a harrowing two minutes before the runway is cratered by two hydrogen warheads launched from a Russian sub off the Maryland coast. From the comparative safety of the enormous "doomsday jet" where he and top military aides, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will run the war, the President addresses his countrymen over the EBS:
He proclaims that he has categorically rejected Soviet demands for an unconditional surrender, and that American retaliatory forces already have dealt the enemy a staggering blow. He calls upon the entire nation to repel the attack, defeat the aggressors and reduce domestic loss of life and property.
The President's speech, intended to bolster morale, inadvertently provokes hysteria among some citizens. Most, however, initially no not panic. Contrary to popular myth, people threatened by hurricanes, floods or even man-made catastrophes like the London Blitz of World War II neither succumb to paralytic fear nor take wild flight. Rather, they tend at first to take no emergency action, finding comfort in continuing daily routines, or in ruminating over their predicament with family and friends.
09:35 a.m. H-50 Minutes
That is precisely the problem confronting Philadelphia civil defense authorities as H-Hour nears. Hardly anyone seeks shelter, while those who do act put-upon or confused. The crisis has escalated so abruptly that most people balk at the alarming official commands. But jarring intimations of the approaching holocaust quickly overcome public reluctance. The annihilation of McGuire Air Force Base at Wrightstown, N.J., only 25 miles east of the Delaware River, generates a flash, boom and dust cloud that throw the entire metropolitan area into a contagious terror.
City and township police forces -- even working in concert with state police and some National Guard troops flown in on short notice -- can not control what soon becomes a general stampede. In Center City alone, workers by the thousands bolt from their offices, shoving their way into packed high-rise elevators and stairwells. Against the singsong shriek of air-raid sirens they pour into the streets, most in a frantic rush to their families. Others, however, are concerned only with saving themselves, scrabbling for whatever shelter they can find or punching and trampling anyone in their attempt to flee. Looting -- despite ample opportunity -- is minimal.
Overloaded public transportation systems bog down within half an hour of the first alert and downtown traffic becomes hopelessly ensnarled. Major arteries like the Schuykill Expressway, Interstate 95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike turn into deathtraps as trucks, buses and cars collide; abruptly abandoning their wrecked autos, stranded motorists beg others for rides. Less patient evacuees simply commandeer vehicles at gunpoint, not hesitating to shoot drivers who resist. Hundreds across the Delaware Valley are killed or injured as the pre-attack panic escalates.
09:55 a.m. H-30 Minutes
Already the avenging Soviet strike has taken a grim toll. Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Houston are gone, pounded to rubbish by "packages" of ground/air bursts in the 1-to-5 megaton range. Next to be flattened are the urban/industrial centers such as Detroit, Gary, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, as well as regional nerve centers like Atlanta, Dallas and Denver.
Missile attacks on nuclear generating stations, including the one at Three Mile Island, turn the reactors into devastating radiological weapons, spewing plumes of deadly contamination -- in addition to bomb fallout -- over tens of thousands of square miles.
10:10 a.m. H-15 Minutes
The continental United States is now absorbing more explosive punishment each second than all the munitions fired during World War II. In downtown Philadelphia, people still struggling to flee are rocked by sharp, repeated tremors accompanied by an ominous distant thunder -- the vibratory remains of nuclear explosions as far as 2,000 miles away. Soon turgid black and yellow clouds begin oozing in low over the horizon.
Motorists locked in an interminable tangle on the New Jersey Turnpike are blinded by a quick succession of brilliant flashes to the northeast. The lights mark the detonation of a cluster of hydrogen warheads over New York City. Even at a distance of 85 miles, the conflagration seems a dozen times brighter than the late-morning sub, causing permanent retinal burns from a single reflex glance.
10:20 a.m. H-5 Minutes
Another dazzling light-show, but this time from space! Three Soviet 25-megaton warheads explode about 400 miles above Omaha, Neb. At that altitude the blasts produce a tremendously powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that disrupts radar installations, microcomputers, telecommunications systems and electrical generating equipment literally from coast to coast.
Lights, telephones, radios and televisions suddenly go dead all over the Delaware Valley, compounding the growing chaos. Its electrical systems unprotected from the EMP, the cities civil defense command bunker also plunges into a power blackout.
Whether trapped in stalled elevators, cowering in dank, flash-lit basements or fleeing the paralyzed city by any available means -- and dependent now on battery-powered radios for news and emergency instructions -- petrified Philadelphians brace themselves for the cataclysm to come.
10:25 a.m. H-Hour
An electronic fuse detonates the SS-13 almost at ground level, no more than 50 feet over the Gallery on Market Street. The violent chain reaction triggered inside the warhead instantly vaporizes the weapon itself, releasing enormous quantities of high-energy radiation that superheat and compress the surrounding air.
In 1/1000 of a second a brilliant blue-white fireball 150 yards wide and radiant enough to be seen from another planet sears the Gallery in temperatures approaching 30 million degrees Fahrenheit. It is as if a miniature star, hotter at its core than the sun itself, has somehow materialized on Market Street.
Though no one near the blast point will survive to tell, there s at first no appreciable sound -- just a soft, sustained whoooosh -- as this man-made nova swells at jet-aircraft speed, simultaneously rising at 400 feet per second, like a gigantic hot air balloon.
Everything up to 200 yards from the Gallery -- stores, vehicles, trees, animals, people, and the very streets on which they stand -- simply vanishes in that instant, vaporized to atoms by the multimillion-degree temperature and inconceivable forces generated by this violently expanding mass of radioactive gas. Flashing in all directions at 186,000 miles per second, the fireball's light and heat rays reach full intensity in less than two seconds. Within 10 seconds, the fiery bubble stretches 6,700 feet -- from South street to Spring Garden, and from Second Street to 18th -- and releases 99 percent of its thermal energy, cooling from blue-hot incandescence to a glowing white-yellow. Beneath it, from ground zero outward, Philadelphia begins to die.
One fleeting caress of the fireball's surface and phwatt! -- Reading Terminal, the U.S. Courthouse and all other stores and office buildings adjacent to the Gallery cease to exist. The extraordinary heat, coupled with blast pressure exceeding a million pounds per square inch at the center (normal atmospheric pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch), excavates pavement, soil and the solid rock beneath as effortlessly as an acetylene torch boring through butter. Nearly 130 million cubic feet of of atomized debris is instantly hoisted into the air, leaving behind a crater 1,200 feet across and deep enough to contain a 20 story building. Beyond the 200-yard wide hill of ejected rock and soil ringing the crater, the thermal flash, radiating outward at the speed of light, creates an inferno for several miles around.
Thousands caught in the open within 3/4 mile of the Gallery (actually inside the fireball) are incinerated to ashes in the blink of an eye -- among them 820 South Philadelphia residents clamoring for seats aboard crammed city buses along Front Street. A blinding flash and phwatt! -- only their shadows remain, indelibly scorched onto the concrete walls by which they were standing. Still hitched to carriages outside Franklin Court, five tour horses burn briefly like incendiary flares. At 400 yards from ground zero the Liberty Bell turns into a puddle of molten bronze. At 800 yards the glass-and-steel facades of the Penn Mutual building and high-rise condominiums surrounding Washington Square fuse into slag. And at 1,200 yards, flecks of mica embedded in granite monuments in St. Peter's Church Cemetery actually bleed from the stone. Nearly every building and tree in Society Hill, Old City and Chinatown is instantly ablaze.
On the Schuykill Expressway near the Philadelphia Zoo and on Broad Street at Girard, stalled cars and buses burn furiously, cremating their cargo of already blackened corpses. Yet these are the lucky ones, for beyond 3,500 yards the bomb's infrared rays kill less efficiently ... merely melting the skin off anyone not shielded by some solid object. Unfortunately, 1,500 refugees trudging across the car-choked Walt Whitman Bridge four miles away have nowhere to hide. Hundreds leap to their deaths to escape the intense heat, while those still trapped on the bridge, amid the burning oil and gasoline, receive burns from both flames and flash; eyes, ears, noses and lips simply shrivel away.
Near Strawberry MAnsion in Fairmount Park, a young man and woman with two children in tow slip just in time behind an outcrop of rock. From their riverside perch they witness a gruesome sight: a startled flock of Canada geese, taking to wing at the bomb's first flash, plummet one by one into the water trailing flames and smoke. A few moments later, the park around them turns deep autumn brown as the foliage crisps and ignites in the brilliant light.
As far away as Abington, Bryn Mawr and Moorestown, N.J., the thermal wave inflicts blistering second-degree burns on exposed skin within seconds after the bomb's detonation. Automobile paintwork bubbles; combustible materials such as dry leaves, loose newspaper, upholstered furniture and grass spontaneously burst into flame.
In the split second after detonation,
a second horror has begun. The extreme compression of air around the expanding fireball has set off a shock wave that rolls over the entire city, crushing all before it. At 500 feet from ground zero, this vertical wall of rock-hard air exerts a force of more than one ton per square inch. In its wake come winds; howling, relentless, all-engulfing, they tear from the heart of the blast at 2,000 miles per hour, dwarfing the fiercest typhoons ever recorded.
The shock front is upon Independence Hall in an instant, demolishing the burning relic in a spray of wood, brick and glass. A split second later the surrounding community of historic parks, churches and townhouses, everything east of ground zero to the bank of the Delaware -- Elfreth's Alley, Bookbinders, Society Hill Towers, along with New Market and Head House Square -- disintegrates, burying thousands of people under fiery debris. Up to a mile from the Gallery, cars, trains and buses crumple like empty beer cans squeezed in some giant fist and hurtle hundreds of yards on 900-m.p.h. winds. The air is viscid with whirling matter: trees, utility poles, masonry and screaming people who writhe in agony as clothing and flesh whip from their frames.
Blown clear out of the water at Penn's Landing, the U.S.S. Olympia and the submarine Becuna capsize and sink. A thousand yards farther on, groaning and oscillating under the abysmal over pressures, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge snaps in three places, spilling cars and pedestrians into heaving river. A third of a mile west of the epicenter, City Hall crumples as if struck by a titanic wrecking ball. Jagged slabs of incandescent concrete and marble splatter against buckling office towers on Penn Center Plaza nearby. The staggering air pressure -- here is down to 200 pounds per square inch -- crushes whole stretches of Market and Broad Streets down onto the refugee-crammed subways beneath.
Within a half-mile of the Gallery everyone who had somehow escaped the thermal pulse, even those in the strongest shelters, dies from concussion or collapsed lungs. Situated only a few hundred feet beyond the fireball's edge, Fire Department headquarters, including its civil defense command bunker is totally destroyed.
In less than four seconds the wave front has spread 1.5 miles and has cauliflowered into a towering wall of hot gas and debris. Block after block of wood frame rowhouses, brick apartment buildings and reinforced-concrete office building crash into rubble as they are struck by the cloud's killing edge. Million of gallons of wind-driven water slosh out of the Schuykill, inundating the expressway beyond the river's west bank. Trains flip and collide on 30th Street Station, awash in a maelstrom of flotsam and mud.
Thundering along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the blast wave strikes the Art Museum with a deafening CRRRACK! The stately edifice's tile roof peels off. Its great columns shatter. Priceless collections sweep out rear windows on 300-m.p.h. winds. But at 1.5 miles from the epicenter, the gutted structure -- now resembling a Greco-Roman ruin -- refuses to fall down. Several stragglers huddled behind the museum's massive superstructure begin to bleed from the ears, nose and mouth as the sudden rise in air pressure to 30 pounds per square inch ruptures eardrums and lungs.
In one prolonged sweep, the shock front claws through Fairmount Park. Trees bend and snap like plastic straws, their defoliated trunks tumbling in the streaking vapor. People, surprisingly prove far more durable than buildings or trees. Three to five miles ground zero, where wood and brick splinter and many commercial buildings collapse, (5 percent dead, 45 percent injured) at last begins to taper off. Whether protected by sturdy shelters or plain dumb luck, half the inhabitants of this zone survive, shaken but unhurt.
Yet even here there are myriad grotesque ways to die. Four miles from the Gallery a solitary man in a Porsche speeds west near Lancaster Pike. Though flash burned on the neck and shoulders, his clothing scorched and torn, he floors the accelerator, hoping to outrun the shock front. The ugly, swelling cloud seems to leap at him in the rear-view mirror -- and sure enough, 14 seconds later he knows he has no chance. The last thing he sees before oblivion: a pair of tractor-trailers pinwheeling end over end behind him at the blast wave's leading edge.
The devastation continues for six miles from ground zero, occupying a circle extending from Frankford to Darby, Collingswood to Westville, N.J., past which trees and utility poles, though scorched, remain standing. Beyond seven miles, the blast wave appreciably ebbs. In the region rimmed by Cheltenham on the north, Wynnwood on the west and Woodbury and Pennsauken, N.J. on the south and east, winds peak at 70 m.p.h. and outright fatalities are almost nil, with 80 percent of the populace still unharmed. Injuries here result from fallen trees and electrical lines, collapsed partitions and roofs -- primarily in small wood-frame dwellings -- as well as from flying glass capable of causing severe lacerations. Indeed, the blast's stupendous roar breaks windows more than 30 miles away.
Thirty seconds after detonation,
the fireball reaches a height of 13,000 feet and cools enough to quit emitting its own light. As the cloud -- by now an orange, green and purple caldron -- surges into the air, its center shoots up faster than its periphery due to the uneven effects of atmospheric drag. The resulting formation resembles an enormous smoke ring circling the column of pulverizing wood, glass, metal, rock and flesh vacuumed skyward by the cyclonic updraft.
There it is! The mythic mushroom cloud, quintessence of Doomsday horror ... and yet, somehow, strangely beautiful even to many survivors not too stunned to gawk at its ascent. Crackling with lightning, the roiling gas turns reddish-brown, indicative of high concentrations of nitrogen oxides. But in minutes, having cooled to normal air temperature, the cloud has noticably blanched. At a height of 60,000 feet it stops rising and flattens into an anvil shape 12 miles across -- a white, billowy shroud over-spreading the stricken city.
There is a great stillness. The metropolitan area lies under a ground-hugging blanket of chocking yellow dust in which can be discerned the orange-red tongues of countless fires. Gradually the eerie gloom dissipates to reveal a shattered abomination where Philadelphia's skyline had been. So complete is the devistation -- so vast -- that Center City's 300-year-old street grid work has virtually disappeared.
Around the raw, smoldering crater for two miles in all directions now stretches a calcinated desert, broken only by a succession of brown and gray-black dunes composed of fiercely burning rubble. Here and there, an especially resilient wall, a twisted utility pole, a fossilized tree or the truncated steel skeleton of a high-rise building pokes from tangled debris, leaning precariously away from the source of its torment. Not quite a mile from ground zero, the gleaming-white Inquirer-Daily News Building is a blackened shell from which everything inside has vanished. A mile farther out, where exceptionally strong commercial structures and a few small residences survive, the streets brim with a jigsaw puzzle of fallen masonry and trees, burning lumber and upended cars. And bodies by the hundreds of thousands, many still twitching.
All around are visions of holocaust: dazed people, blood-soaked and naked, crawling crab-like from crumpled buildings; skin hanging from mangled backs and limbs; hideous cuts and blisters covering faces and hands; bare scalps smoldering, the hair singed to the roots. On all sides the sobs and groans of the wounded and dying mingle with the roar of crashing mortar and fires to create a nighmarish din.
Although the blast wave has extinguished many fires ignited by the thermal flash, others persist, or else quickly rekindle. From West Philadelphia to the Port of Camden and from Columbia to Snyder Avenues, almost half of all building, standing or not, are ablaze, while decreasing numbers of fires rage as far away as Jenkintown, Conshohocken, Chester and Cherry Hill, N.J.
In Center City, almost nothing is left to burn. Not so in the surrounding residential and manufacturing areas, where damaged gas and electrical lines feed fires already feasting on a deep, nearly continuous layer of tindery debris. Flames leap contagiously among closely spaced row houses, warehouses and factories. Thirty square miles of the city soon are engulfed in a conflagration; driven by prevailing winds, the fire front burns its way generally from west to east, destined not to stop until it runs out of fuel at the banks of the Delaware.
But north of Girard, where the density of combustible structures is especially high, the fire front is stationary. Inrushing cool air which replaces rising hot air, prevents the flames from spreading outward. This "chimney effect" signals the start of a firestorm, most dreaded of all incendiary phenomena. Myriad individual blazes soon coalesce into a single convective column of hot gases rising 25,000 feet into the sky. Continuously fanned by high-velocity winds, the firestorm burns hotter and wilder until air temperatures at its vortex, near the Kensington mills, climb past 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
In this section of the city, those still alive in shelters fare little better than survivors wandering the surface in the rolling black smoke. All are roasted or asphyxiated as virtually everything combustible in North Philadelphia south of Roosevelt Boulevard is eventually destroyed.
South of the firestorm, tens of thousands of shelterless victims seek relief in the Delaware and Schuykill , both already glutted with corpses. Many dorwn; others lie at the water's edge too maimed or exhausted to move. Meanwhile, processions of walking wounded attempt to leave the city. Following riverbanks, SEPTA tracks and any passible streets, they trudge away from the death zone in somber, ragtag files -- silent except for moans or whimpers of pain, driven by a primal urge to survive yet crushed in spirit and oblivious to cries for help from the limbless, swollen figures sprawled around them.
Yet there are innumerable acts of bravery: Residents of Oregon Avenue claw barehanded at bricks and beams to reach neighbors buried alive in the path of mounting flames. Camden police officers pull motorists from burning cars as they dodge whiplashing cables on the eastern span of the downed Ben Franklin Bridge. Clergymen rush about to comfort the dying, scorched vestments clinging to raw skin. Temple University students and faculty administer first aid to victims staggering along North Broad Street at the firestorm fringe....
But rescuers and rescued alike still have a much deadlier menace to face than heat, shock waves or wind: nuclear radiation. More than 300 lethal radioisotopes were produced in the crucible of the fireball, including strontium-90, cesium-137, iodine-131, carbon-14, barium-140, neptunium-234 and a smattering of chlorine-38. Their vapors are condensing upon cooling particles of material suspended in the dispersing mushroom cloud.
A weird, sooty rain begins to pelt the city. Heavy particles fall first -- many the size of marbles -- each giving off invisible radiation, like a tiny x-ray machine. These are followed by finer sand and dust, which are borne over South Jersey on prevailing winds.
Within 24 hours, early radioactive fallout will blanket a cigar-shaped swath extending 60 by 250 miles, accumulating in snow-like drifts, or "hot spots," invisible to the eye. The most dangerous isotopes will be on the ground within five to seven hours -- and, fortunately for all living things, the worst radioactivity will be short-lived. After 24 to 48 hours the occupants of most shelters will be able to perform brief emergency tasks outside, and they will be able to leave the shelters within two weeks. But that is small consolation to several million unsheltered survivors doomed to radiation poisoning.
Every one of them within 1.7 miles of what used to be the Gallery promptly shows the gruesome signs: vomiting, dizziness, respiratory distress, paralysis, convulsions. They will die within hours, drenched in neutrons and gamma rays emitted by the initial chain reaction at dosages beyond 5,000 rems. (Rems are "roetgen equivalent man units," an index of radiation damage to human tissue exposure to 200 rems in one day can cause illness or death.)
Scores of thousands a few miles downwind succumb next. An hour after absorbing 1,000 to 5,000 rems from heavy fallout, they begin to experience nausea and vomiting, rapidly followed by diarrhea and fever, they will be dead within two weeks at most. Those who absorb 200 to 1,000 rems will last longer. It is possible that 80 percent of them will be dead in eight weeks -- typically from overwhelming infection stemming from reduced white blood cells -- but for those who receive less than 600 rems, chances of survival are good., though not assured even with the best medical care.
Unfortunately, the bomb has demolished most of Philadelphia's health system. Of the region's more than 80 acute-care medical institutions, at least 40 had been inside the devastated five=mile zone, with 25 -- including Hahnemann, Jefferson, Cooper, Children's and Pennsylvania Hospitals -- clustered less than 5,000 yards from ground zero. Only 3,000 of the areas 17,500 acute-care beds remain intact, and only 1,600 of nearly 10,000 physicians survive in condition to treat patients. At least half of the cities nurses, technicians paramedics and ambulance attendants are among the killed and wounded.
The overall casualty figures are horrific: Of the metropolitan area's 4.6 million residents, about 630,000 died within 10 minutes of the explosion in CEnter City. Five hundred thousand more suffered trauma of the most serious kind -- multiple fractures, internal injuries, lacerations, blindness. A million people received light to moderate wounds. A quarter of all the serious injuries involve third-degree burns, whose care requires medicine's most sophisticated manpower and equipment. Yet even before the bombs fell, all the intensive burn-care facilities in the United States together could handle only 2,000 cases at one time. Philadelphia's could handle fewer than 40.
Few of the severely burned or injured would recover in any case, since most also have radiation sickness, which aggravates shock and retards healing by damaging the body's immune system. Besides, with one doctor for every 1,000 patients and over half of all health facilities destroyed; with most telephones, gas, and electrical power knocked out (except for some emergency generators), and no hope of assistance and resupply from New York, Baltimore or any other major city, there can be no effective medical response.
Medicine's hopeless burden quickly becomes evident. Most physically undamaged hospitals in adjacent counties are forced to close down; from Camden to Atlantic City, institutions caught in the radioactive plume settling on South Jersey barely have time to transfer petients and staffs to safer refuges. North and west of Philadelphia, however fallout is not yet as intense. Personnel at a few hospitals there volunteer to attempt emergency transport and care. Triage (sorting) teams try to maximize tenuous resources by giving priority to patients with the best chances of survival.
But it is futile. Within hours the doctors and nurses themselves fall ill, overcome by exhaustion and radiation sickness. Nonetheless, the injured keep coming, risking lethal fallout to reach medical care. Soon hospital lobbies, basement corridors, operating rooms and cafeterias teem with casualties -- living and dead, hopeless and curable lying unattended side by side.
People hiding in public shelters or home basements are better off, but only marginally. Confined in cramped, dark, unheated quarters, and cut off from the outside except for erratic radio reports, most of the survivors experience extreme physical and psychological stress, which lowers their resistance to radiation. Limited food, water and medical supplies -- coupled with rudimentary waste disposal and air filtration drive thousands to forage outside, just as additional fallout wafts in from Virginia and the Midwest.
Epidemic diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera and plague will sweep the Delaware Valley in the next weeks, stemming from a breakdown of public health and sanitation services. Aside from the lack of medical supplies, there is no one to bury the corpses -- 750,000 of them by now -- lying about in ravaged streets, buildings and waterworks.
Reeling under the impact of Armageddon--Day 1, the Delaware Valley spins into night. The evening sky over most of the metropolitan area is awash in firelight, which appears to grow brighter as the hours wear on. Farther away, however, where the air is clearer, survivors are held spellbound by a display of artificial auroras -- flickering purple and green streamers induced by high-altitude nuclear bursts hundreds of miles away.
Despite suffering and death in a scale unprecedented in recorded history, life slowly begins to reaffirm itself. Apart from the uninhabitable trash heap of Center City, radiation throughout most of Philadelphia area already has dropped below 30 rems per hour, allowing people to leave shelters for a few minutes to perform emergency tasks.
Operating in brief shifts, surviving firefighters, police, soldiers and key civilian workers launch recovery operations. Dressed in protective garb, radiological survey teams armed with fallout meters probe assigned quadrants for "hot spots" to be mapped as off-limits. Helicopters whirl back and forth overhead assessing the devastation.
By now more than150 square miles have been gutted by great surface fires, which still rage unchecked in peripheral parts of Philadelphia and Camden, threatening relatively intact communities like West Oak LAne, Chestnut Hill and Pennsauken, N.J. Even at the edge of the conflagration, each mechanized fire company faces 80 to 100 simultaneous blazes -- an overwhelming task exacerbated by debris-clogged streets, lingering radiation, damaged equipment and little or no water pressure. Most well-advanced blazes must be allowed to burn themselves out, with organized firefighting restricted to defending vital facilities and suppressing new ignitions.
Meanwhile, a few major roads are cleared of rubble. Rescue squads move as deep as they dare into the ruined out-skirts of Center City in search of survivors. Some suburban hospitals reopen, supplemented by mobile field facilities set up in schools and and fire halls. Nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and other long-term institutions provide bed space for hundreds of thousands of casualties, most of whom receive no care whatever due to triaging and depleted medical supplies.
Although the Montgomery County emergency operating center is now coordinating relief activity throughout the five counties, communications are poor. Central civilian authority no longer exists. Undermanned police and military units try to exercise firm but sympathetic crowd control, but are forced to use tear gas on some unruly mobs clamoring for food and medical care. Looters and scavengers are shot on sight.
As the magnitude of the local catastrophe sinks into the psyches of survivors, most slip into apathetic despair. In fact, the situation is far grimmer than they possible can know. During the past 24 hours, 6,500 megatons (equivalent to half a million Hiroshima-sized bombs) have reached the United States, killing more than 135 million people and destroying 2,000 towns and cities, along with most industries, ports and housing. The country's economic and social fabric has been irreparably rended -- shredded into disorganized fragments whose chances of ever again functioning as a cohesive nation are dubious at best.
As the survivors rebuild, they will confront the war's long-term effects. Many may develop leukemia and various other cancers, as well as cataracts or symptoms or premature aging. Genetic damage may produce many still-born, retarded or malformed children for several generations to come.
Vast quantities of nitrogen oxide, injected into the atmosphere by thousands of ground-burst H-bombs, will soon deplete the earth's ozone layer, which blocks out the sun's dangerous ultraviolet light. For possibly a decade, anyone venturing outside without protection will be blinded and sunburned in minutes. Unable to take such precautions, most birds and wildlife will perish, with the exception of nocturnal creatures and insects like cockroaches that have a high radiation tolerance. The increased ultraviolet together with sudden climate cooling will destroy or mutate crops. Settling in soil, carcinogenic particles of strontium-90 will enter the food chain. Iodine-131, a thyroid cancer-producing radioisotope, will contaminate many water systems. Illness and famine will be widespread.
And yet a few indomitable optimists miles removed from the carnage already have resolved to rebuild Philadelphia -- indeed, restore the nation and make a fresh start no matter what the hardship or odds. With courage and determination, they point out that this was not the end of the world. World War III, it turns out, was survivable after all....
Then something darts into view high in the northern sky, two pinpoints of light. Incoming ICBMs! Across the Delaware Valley benumbed survivors watch the lights diverge slightly before plunging toward the city. A moment later there are two blinding flashes -- one at the Navy Yard, the other near the oil refineries along interstate 95.
As the twin fireballs expand, there is no sound ... ยง
Effects of a 1-Megaton blast MAP
This article is based on information obtained from a variety of publications and people
Primary written sources include:
|The Effects of Nuclear Weapons (third edition, 1977), Edited by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan||Published by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy|
|The effects of Nuclear War||Prepared by The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, 1979|
|Nuclear War Survival Skills||By Cresson H. Kearney|
|Nuclear War Survival Research Bureau||Coos Bay, Org., 1980|
|The Defense Civil Preparedness Agency Attack Environment Manual||Washington, June 1973|
|Medical Problems of Survivors of Nuclear War||By Herbert L. Abrams, M.D. and William E. Von Kaenel, in The New England Journal of Medicine, Nov, 12, 1981|
|Weapons of World War III||By William J. Koenig, Bison Books Ltd. London, 1981|
Persons interviewed included:
|Gene R. LaRocque||Retired Rear Admiral and now director of Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C.|
|Dr. H. Jack Geiger and Arthur C. Logan||Professor of community medicine at City College of New York and a founding member of Physicians for Social Responsibility|
|Dr. Stuart H. Shapiro||Philadelphia health commissioner|
|Joseph R. Rizzo||Philadelphia Fire Commissioner and director of the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Preparedness|
|Samuel Ely||Director of Montgomery County Office Preparedness|
|Vernon Adler||Director of the Plans and Preparedness Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region III|
Some additional information regarding a NUCLEAR STRIKE!
Targets are divided in three categories:
Primary Targets: include, but not limited to - missile silos, bomber bases, submarine bases and command and control centers.
Secondary Targets: include, but are not limited to - major military, industrial, governmental and transportation centers. Also included would be seaports and possible locks and dams. These could be included in a first strike depending on the number of missiles or bombers used.
Tertiary Targets: includes, but not limited to - population and industrial centers that might not be hit on the first or second round. These would be high on the lists, but further down in priority.
As Tensions Rise: Our forces might be dispersed to local airports and bases no longer used by the military. Any old or current airport that has a runway long enough to accommodate the newer and larger aircraft should be considered as a primary through tertiary target.
Any interstate or highway that has a long straight portion of roadway might be used for landings, takeoffs and refueling. This also includes closed military bases. These should also be considered as tertiary targets.
A lot also depends on who fires at us. The Soviet Union and China, other than the U.S. and NATO countries, probably have the most accurate missiles. Other rouge countries like North Korea and Iran may launch a missile, but were not sure if it will land or hit where they want. They might aim at Philadelphia and it could be 10-20 miles off.
The other thing - Once our missiles are fired the military might turn off the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite System). They can turn it back on as needed to help acquire the right coordinates.
There are so many things to consider including the possibility of the Russians have a "DOOMSDAY" bomb. This rumor has been circulating for decades. Basically it's a fail safe system that says, "If any nuclear detonation is detected on Soviet soil a hidden super computer will detonate a massive quantity of H-Bombs buried someplace days after the initial apocalypse. No one knows if this is true or not. Only the persons that might have built it.
Philadelphia was used in the authors article, but this would apply to any major U.S. city of the same size.
I hope you enjoyed this article!
- Philadelphia Airport
- Northeast Philadelphia Airport
- Pittsburgh Airport
- Navy Yard
- Oil refineries
- Pittsburgh (city)
- Willow Grove
- Natrona Heights
The above list is a "best guess." There is really no way to know what an aggressor might do or their reasoning. I put Harrisburg in twice. First as the capital of the state and once as a population center.